By Gabrielle Johnston
Ohio University ranked 20th in the nation last school year for the number of students who received aid under a new grant program designed to encourage study in high-demand fields.
The ranking, for the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), points to the Office of Financial Aid's determination in identifying as many financial aid resources as possible for students, according to Serena Wolfe, assistant director of student financial aid.
The ACG was signed into law by former President George Bush in 2006 to address the rising need for improved math and science instruction. It is available to first- and second-year university students based on qualifications for the Pell Grant and high school transcripts. The ACG is intended to encourage students to take more challenging courses before going to college in hopes they will pursue majors such as science, math, technology, engineering and critical foreign languages.
The Office of Financial Aid, with the help of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in screening possible candidates, has been able to identify a steadily growing number of eligible students for the ACG, boosting the university to 20th in the nation for administering the ACG.
During 2006-07, the first year the program was offered, Ohio University ACG participants numbered 1,140. The total rose to 1,442 for the 2007-08 school year.
The average payout for first-year recipients is $750, while second-year students receive an average of $1,300.
Wolfe attributed the rise to increased awareness of the program both in high schools and at the university. In addition, the Office of Financial Aid has improved its own processes, allowing it to alert more potential recipients to the grant program.
Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management, encourages students to take advantage of all the Office of Financial Aid has to offer.
"The staff is committed to helping each student individually and exploring all options available," he said. "The worst situation is when a student or family feels they may have trouble affording their education and does not call the office."
Wolfe agreed, adding that the Office of Financial Aid is striving to do a better job of alerting prospective students to their college funding options.
"It's bigger than just this grant," she said of the ACG. "It's about getting the word out that you can go to college."
Wolfe said that message is particularly important in the Appalachian region, where, often, many believe college is out of reach financially. Beyond the ACG, the Financial Aid Office works to promote a number of federal grant and scholarship programs along with other sources of aid.
"ACG is just part of that overall outreach," Wolfe said. "The goal is always to get more funding for our higher need students."